To all of you with sharp eyes and sharper minds, it may seem that with yesterday’s entry, I made a mistake. AND YOU WOULD BE RIGHT!!!!! I have no idea where my head has been lately (and no, you are not permitted to guess), but after reminding myself for weeks, I completely forgot to devote yesterday’s entry to what may arguably be the Most Important Sherlockian Event Ever. After all, Christmas 1887 was the season (if not the actual date) which saw the publication of
The truth is, I did search for news about the Annual, but my search terms were off, so I missed the (very) few articles mentioning this Miracle of Literature. Then I found the coded agony ad, and it was all over.
Tonight, however, I decided to search again, using different terms, and lo and behold…..
First, from The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle:
A NEW NOVELIST.
The publishers of Beeton’s Christmas Annual (Messrs. Ward, Lock, and Co.) have been fortunate to secure the services of our townsman, Dr. A. Conan Doyle, who is now well-known in literary circles as a rising writer of fiction. Dr. Conan Doyle has prepared for Beeton’s Christmas fare A Study in Scarlet, which for exciting incidents, clever construction, and artistic development of plot, will compare with any of the Christmas annuals with which the bookstalls are now deluged. This student in scarlet is one Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective of most amusing eccentricities and strangely balanced powers. For instance, in a curious table which a young medical man who shares rooms with Sherlock Holmes draws up for his own amusement we learn that this strange creation knows nothing of literature, philosophy, astronomy, or politics; that his knowledge of botany was confined to poisons; that his geological information was summed up in being able to tell different soils from each other at a glance, and to know by looking at the mud splashes on his trousers in what part of London he had received them; that his knowledge of chemistry was profound; and that he appeared to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. As he said himself, “A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out. or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he had difficulty in laying hands on it.” This was his excuse for knowing nothing of the solar system. Sherlock Holmes carried out his theory to its extreme limits, and by training his powers of observation to an extraordinary degree became a master of the science of deduction and an unrecognised Prince among the detectives of London. The story proper tells how the “Lauriston Garden Mystery” was solved by this strange being. We will not let the public into the secret of the mystery here. They must go to the book itself for that and we promise them that their shillings will be well expended. It is sufficient to say that the mystery is mixed up with love and Mormonism; that it presents weird pictures of the terrible autocracy of Brigham Young; exciting passages of escape through the lines of his relentless sentinels; the merciless pursuit of a revengeful purpose from the home of the chosen people to the busy streets of London; and the triumphant application of the science of deduction in the person of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Conan Doyle’s reputation as a man of letters will be greatly enhanced by this remarkable tale, which is bound to be popular, and which our readers will do well not to overlook. —December 3, 1887
The Graphic’s reviewer was not as enthusiastic–and definitely not very observant:
THE LAST CHRISTMAS NUMBERS.–“A Study in Scarlet” is the name of the anonymous story which is the chief attraction in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It is not at all a bad imitation; but it would never have been written but for Poe, Gaboriau, and Mr. R.L. Stevenson. The hero of the tale is simply the hero of “The Murder in the Rue Morgue.” Those who like detective stories, and have not read the great originals, will find the tale full of interest. It hangs together well, and finishes ingeniously.–December 10, 1887
The Morning Post writer, tasked with reviewing a pile of holiday annuals may not have even read the story….
Beeton’s Christmas Annual has a realistic novel by A. C. Doyle, called “A Study in Scarlet,” and two drawing-room plays, the first being “Food for Powder,” by R. Andre, and the second “The Four-Leaved Shamrock,” by C.J. Hamilton. The illustrations are, on the whole, excellent.–December 19, 1887
The Bristol Mercury reviewer is more concerned with medical than historical accuracy. Also, it’s the “Four-Leaved Shamrock”:
A Study in Scarlet, By A.C. Doyle (London: Ward, Lock, and Co.)
This is the title of the modern representative of a valued friend of a quarter century ago, “Beeton’s Christmas Annual.” Mr. Doyle has written a story which brings in the vengeful deeds by which the Mormons used to maintain their institution, polygamy, and tells how one of their crimes was avenged in London, and how the mystery thereof was traced out by an amateur detective, who regards Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin as a very inferior fellow, and Lecoq as a miserable bungler. The story is very exciting and well told after the first start, and as the narrator is a doctor we presume his pathology of aneurism is correct. Two drawing-room plays are appended, the less weak of which is “The Two-Leaved Shamrock,” by C.J. Hamilton.–December 21, 1887
This reviewer at The Sheffield Independent is my favorite–and probably one of the very first to enjoy “a long evening with Holmes…”
BEETON’S CHRISTMAS ANNUAL. A Study in Scarlet, being a reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., late of the Army Medical Department. Ward, Lock, and Co., London and New York.
A snowy night, a good fire, and this annual will make a man comfortable if anything can.–December 15, 1887.
So there they are–the first public glimpses of The Great Detective. Just think–none of these reviewers (or the author who finally settled for £25 just to get that story sold) had any idea how famous “this strange creation” was going to be, even a year hence. We’ll soon see how things changed in 1888.
And since you’re now all thinking about A Study in Scarlet, let’s test your memories….
How did Jefferson Hope and Lucy Ferrier meet?
Send you answers in for the drawing via blog comment or FB Message, and you’ll be the recipient of another Sherlock Holmes “book club.” You’ll receive one book in January, one in February, and one in March–and this time the focus is on recent pastiche or Holmes-related fiction–
Good luck, and have a wonderful New Year’s Eve!
Emily Todd is the winner of the knitted dolls! Her answer:
In “The Reigate Squires,” Father and Son Cunningham pretended their home was the target of a burglary to shift blame of the murder of their coachman [another popular answer–Holmes faking a “spell”]. In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” The King of Bohemia pretended to be Count von Kramm, an intermediary for the king [other answers–Irene Adler in men’s clothing, or Holmes pretending to be a clergyman]. In “The Twisted Lip, Neville St. Clair pretended to be Hugo Boone, the beggar. In “A Case of Identity,” Mr. Windibank pretended to be Hosmer Angel, his stepdaughter’s fiancee. In “The Red-Headed League, John Clay pretended to be Vincent Spaulding’s pawn assistant [and his assistant, Archie, pretending to be Duncan Ross]. In “The Dying Detective,” Holmes pretended to be ill. In “The Five Orange Pips,” The Klan staged their attacks on the Openshaws as accidents [another possible answer–Col. Openshaw hiding his history in the Klan]. In “The Blue Carbuncle,” Holmes pretended to have a bet with Watson over geese.